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Being a Mother to a Step-Son

Questioner

R (29-female-UK)

Reply Date

Sep 08, 2018

Question

As salamu `alaykum.  I am in my late 20s, married, and a mother of 3 beautiful kids. My eldest is from my husband's previous marriage. I don't call him my step son as I treat him like my own. I love him a lot as he is a wonderful kid. My real question is what are the rights of step mothers? I don't know what to do when my stepson behaves badly? Can I punish him, or give him time out like I do with my own kids?. My mother keeps saying that I should not do or say anything to my stepson, as he is not my real child, and Allah will punish me if I punish him.I am very confused as to what I should do. I don't know what Islam says about stepparents? What are our rights? Should we treat our step kids like our own? I am very scared that if I scold my stepson Allah will punish me - please help me.Thank you

Counselor

Answer


step mother

In this counseling answer:

“Children have a right to be treated as people, in an environment that is conducive for their growth and maturity and to become useful citizens. Children have a right to love, care, discipline and protection from their parents. Children have a right to receive education and financial protection for the future.”


As salamu `alaykum  sister,

Al hamdu Lillah, and ma sha `Allah, that you took it upon yourself to become a mother to this boy by virtue of marrying his father. It is a blessing indeed that the mother figure that he needs in his life is present again – and may you honor him with your love and compassion in sha Allah.

It is not an easy task to take on a child whose formative years one was not a part of, along with the impact of the loss of a parent (whatever the reason for that loss is). There can be much to navigate in forming close ties with such a child, especially if there are other siblings who do not share the same mother, which in this case is you.

Dr. Shahid Athar tells us:

“The parent who cannot say “no” to a child spoils the child. This child will make unreasonable demands and put on a manipulative show. The parents have to discipline themselves in order to discipline their children. Parents who take sides in sibling rivalry encourage jealousy, and hate. They should not prefer boys over girls, fair complexions over dark ones, the honor roll over an average student”.

Dr. Shahid Athar also advises:

“Children have a right to be treated as people, in an environment that is conducive for their growth and maturity and to become useful citizens. Children have a right to love, care, discipline and protection from their parents. Children have a right to receive education and financial protection for the future.

“Parents have a right to receive love, respect and affection from their children. Parents have a right to educate and discipline their children. Parents have a right to know about their children and monitor other influences affecting them. Parents have a right to say no to unusual financial and other demands of children”.

“He is not one of us who does not show compassion to our little ones and recognize the rights of our elders. (Ahmad, 2: 185, Al-Hakim, 1:62, Kitab al-Iman)

Treating them differently to ones own children can lead to insurmountable emotional and psychological problems including sibling rivalry. Prophet Muhammad gave many examples in treating all ones children the same, and this is no less for a step son, except whilst allowing for relations to become established. Your children, his siblings, also need to be sensitized to this so that they too do not get the wrong idea (e.g. jealousy, envy, resentment, bullying etc) from your actions with your step son,in sha Allah. It is about nurturing respect on all sides, otherwise any guidance that you might give any of your children, including your step son will more than likely fall on deaf ears.

The values you set should apply all round including:

  • Body language and dress – The awrat are those parts of the body that could elicit sexual stimulation if seen. Covering the awrat prevents this.  Both men and women must cover the awrat, which differs between males and of females. The female awrat is all her body except the face and the hands. ? The awrat must be covered as prescribed by the law, satr al awrat (An Nur24:31)
  • Rest and Sleep Male and female children should not share beds after the age of 7.
  • Personal Hygiene The father should play a major role here as your step son gets older (sorry you did not state your step son’s age)
  • Name Your step son must keep his father’s name (i.e. surname).
  • Inheritance – Your step son does not have the right to inherit from you, but of course he has the right to inherit from his father. If you wish to put aside for him a gift, this is different.
  • Marriage – Your step son is not forbidden from marrying what used to be called relatives by the bond of adoption.

Of course, any concerns that you may have should be discussed with your husband, seeking his guidance on areas you are unsure of. When it comes to treating a step child “differently”, if you look at reason behind it, the reason(s) are cultural, or in the case of your mother, she may be just overly fearful and wants your marriage to be a successful one, in sha Allah.

 


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 




About Hwaa Irfan

Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.

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